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COA: Minor lacks standing in suit against health department

April 19, 2016

The Indiana Court of Appeals found a minor was not in danger of sustaining injury from storage of her dried blood spot by the Indiana Department of Health and therefore lacked standing to bring a lawsuit, affirming the judgment of the Marion Superior Court.

The minor, A.B. Doe, was born in 2006 and a blood sample was taken pursuant to Indiana’s newborn screening program, which is aimed at identifying, treating and preventing serious conditions and diseases in infants. The samples were originally kept for 23 years, but the department changed its policy in 2013. Now it keeps the samples for three years if the parent wants the blood saved for medical research, and for six months if the parent does not.

In 2014, the child and her family filed a suit on her behalf and the behalf of all of the individuals who had a blood sample taken before the change took effect. She claimed violations of the Fourth, Fifth and 14th amendments — that her blood was shared with unauthorized third parties; that she didn’t know her blood could be used for research; and the taking of her blood constituted unreasonable search and seizure.

In response to the complaint, ISDH said Doe’s blood was not given to any third parties, and that parents can have the sample destroyed if they fill out a form. ISDH filed a motion to dismiss, saying Doe lacked standing and the trial court granted the request. Doe appealed.

The COA said only Doe’s claims are at issue, because her complaints are merely proposed class actions, and the class Doe claims has not been certified.

The COA also said the trial court was not prejudiced by the fact the trial court treated ISDH’s motion to dismiss as one for summary judgment.

Doe claimed she had a privacy interest in her blood being kept by the ISDH, but the COA said that claim was debatable. However, even if she did, Doe still needed to show she had suffered or was in immediate danger of suffering a direct injury and she did not.

Doe’s blood has not been released for research and will not be released without parental authorization. Also, her sample could be destroyed at any time using a form. The COA said Doe’s fear of injury is “speculative” and does not necessitate standing.

The case is A.B. Doe, a minor child by and through her parent(s); individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated v. Jerome Adams, M.D., in his capacity as the Indiana State Health Commissioner, et al., 49A04-1505-CT-326.
 

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